Flying Lizard 5th and 10th in Tough Race at Road America but Retains Championship Lead August 20, 2006--Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin--Today's Generac 500 at Road America was a struggle for the Lizards, who hit problem after problem with both team ...
Flying Lizard 5th and 10th in Tough Race at Road America but Retains Championship Lead
August 20, 2006--Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin--Today's Generac 500 at Road America was a struggle for the Lizards, who hit problem after problem with both team Porsches in what became a slugfest of off-track excursions and yellows for the entire field. After many challenges for both crew and drivers, the team and crew together fought to finish in the points and keep a nine-point lead in both the ALMS GT2 driver and team championships.
The day started well and looked promising: the team's No. 45 and No. 44 Porsches were set to start third and fourth, respectively in the 10-car GT2 field and both cars were at solid race setups. In the last lap of the warmup, Lonnie Pechnik spun in the No.44 and impacted the wall in turn one, resulting in significant chassis damage. The crew worked feverishly for the next several hours to repair the car in time for the race. They made the start with just two minutes to spare, with Lonnie starting from the rear of the grid.
Unfortunately, the morning incident was just a taste of what was to come for the Lizards. Wolf Henzler was off to a strong start in the No. 45 Porsche and Lonnie reported that the No. 44 (which they had not had time to test) seemed to be in good shape. After falling back to fourth on the start, Wolf moved quickly back into third place and was chasing the two class leaders: the No. 31 Petersen White Lightning and the No. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsches. The problems began just minutes later when Wolf reported a sudden strong vibration due to a tire problem and had to make his way slowly back to the pits. The crew had him back out quickly with new tires and fuel, but he had fallen back to ninth.
Meanwhile, the rest of the field encountered their own problems with cars going off track every few minutes, causing the track to become ever rougher with debris and gravel. By the 90 minute mark, the Lizards had regained some traction, with Lonnie in fifth position and Johannes van Overbeek, who took over from Wolf at the 90 minute point, now in sixth.
Two hours into the race, things were beginning to look up and then the No. 44 went off track, with Lonnie reporting another strong vibration due to a tire problem. He drove slowly back to the pits, but couldn't avoid the resulting damage from the tire, which included a punctured radiator. In only 14 minutes, they were able to replace the radiator and repair the car, and Seth Neiman took the wheel. However, after one lap and a stop and go penalty (assessed for an infraction in the pits) he reported suspension problems and the crew called him in again. They determined that they would not be able to continue and headed back to the garage.
Meanwhile, Johannes continued to clock fast lap times in the No. 45, in a solid fifth place position. With incidents still occurring right and left on the track, he focused on staying out of trouble and completing the race.
"It was rough racing out there for the entire field and we certainly had our share of problems today," said No. 44 car chief Paul Truess. "The No. 44 team had a tough day: they worked so hard to get the car to race start and still stayed on it the entire race through the multiple repairs. It was just one thing after another and finally we had to put the rollers on and call it a day. But they did an incredible job today. We are all really proud of what the team was able to accomplish in a tough situation."
Crew chief Tommy Sadler added, "It was a shame the No. 45 had issues so early in the race. We had a fast race car and I know Johannes and Wolf wanted to get a chance to show it. We knew the other Porsches would be strong today and they were. The No. 31 Porsche deserved their win, and it was great to see the No. 21 Team PTG BMW on the podium in second. With the No. 23 Porsche in third and the No. 61 Risi Ferrari right behind them, Road America was another example of how strong GT2 racing has become in the series. This was definitely not our race but we are already looking ahead to Mosport."